Every child is unique. They each have a unique personality, temperament, mental abilities, and varying abilities to focus. They each have their own likes and their own dislikes.
This is also true of foods which may be negatively affecting each child individually, and in a unique way. I am not talking about the foods and additives that we know are toxic and terrible like food colouring, sugar, MSG, glyphosates, etc. I am talking about healthy foods that are just not tolerated well by some kids. Each child has foods that they can not tolerate well, but, quite often, the intolerance is "hidden" and we do not attribute the X food to Y symptom.
Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby, in his must read book Diet Wise, discusses the reasons why some food intolerances are hidden. He calls the intolerant foods "stressor foods". In his book, he lists some of the symptoms that he has personally seen from his medical office that have subsided after removing the stressor foods. The symptoms he noted were most common were, but stated that it was not limited to, eczema, dermatitis, migraines, colitis, high blood pressure, obesity, anorexia, depression, headaches, bellyaches, joint pain, low moods, bloating, catarrh (phlegm), heart palpitations, panic attacks, inability to concentrate, fatigue....
For us, we are interested in finding out which foods may be affecting our child's overall health, and also their mental focus and attention. That means we need to do a bit of detective work.
First, we need to understand what symptoms may be related to food intolerance. Symptoms can vary greatly between kids, even with the same stressor foods. It really depends on what their weakest and most vulnerable system(s) is(are) at that moment, and their personal threshold for visible signs and symptoms.
Some kids can tolerate eating stressor foods without any obvious signs or symptoms, yet others may have many signs and symptoms. For example, one child continuously exposed to a stressor food may have ADD, yet another child, with the same stressor food, may exhibit asthma and eczema. These symptoms may seem unrelated, yet the cause may, in fact, be the same. The organs or systems affected are your child's personal weakest.
To boot, the thresholds for symptoms change as health and age changes. Asthma as a young child may be psoriasis as a teen.
If your child eats eggs daily, for example, and it is a stressor food for them, it is possible that no symptoms are obvious because your child may be below their threshold where detectible symptoms will arise. If they catch a cold, they may reach their threshold at that point and have symptoms that is not readily attributed to egg consumption. The cold goes away, the child is again below threshold, and the detectible symptoms of the stressor food goes away.
You may never connect the dots until your child gets older and lowers his threshold, or another illness arises. For most kids, unfortunately, parents never connect the dots. The kids get symptoms that are never attributed to food. They may even go on pharmaceuticals or just tolerate the symptoms.
Another reason the intolerance is hidden is that our bodies unhappily adapt to the stressor food. I hear the argument all the time that if a child has had a stressor food, such as our example of eggs, their whole life without obvious symptoms, that they cannot possibly be intolerant to them. Our bodies adapt unhappily, sometimes with symptoms, and sometimes, depending on the threshold and how often the food is consumed, with no obvious symptoms.
But, no symptoms that we can easily detect does not mean no symptoms.
The stressor food may be causing undetected inflammation in the gut with subsequent reduced nutrient uptake. We can not see the nutrient uptake per se. We can, however, try to detect stressor foods using other signs. Let's say your child yawns in class after lunch when they are not short of rest. Is this a symptom of food intolerance? Definitely.
Just to make it more of a mystery, if your child eats a stressor food, and then eats it again within a four day period, the previous exposure to the stressor food would not be fully eliminated out of their bowel. Having more of the stressor food at any point before the bowel is clear of the previous exposure may or may not elicit any further symptoms.
This makes it even more difficult to know what food is causing what harm. It really is, essentially, a hidden allergy. (Doctors miss it all the time).
This also makes it difficult, therefore, to write a complete list of possible symptoms. Dr. Richard Mackarness has given a guideline of five common things to look for for starters. The sixth "common thing" was added by Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby.
- Over- or under-weight (or fluctuating weight)
- Persistent fatigue that is not helped by rest
- Occasional swellings (or darkening) around the eyes, or occasional swelling of the hands, abdomen, or ankles
- Palpitations or increased heart rate, particularly after meals
- Excessive sweating, not related to exercise
- Hyperactivity or tiredness after eating
To really figure out our child's intolerances, we need to do a food and symptom inventory and write down ANY symptom you and your child can think of, and whether or not the symptoms come and go. If your child seems healthy or well behaved and focused one day, yet symptomatic or hyper the next, then healthy again for a few days, this is a huge red flag to a suspected hidden allergen. Dr. Keith Scott-Mumby says that if your child can be symptom free one day, they can be symptom free everyday. In his book Diet Wise, Dr. Scott-Mumby made a common list of symptoms, but reiterates that the list is certainly not limited to this list.
- Itchy eyes
- Dark rings under eyes (a very common symptom in children)
- Floaters in vision (difficult to assess in children)
- Any skin issue (eczema, dermatographism, rash, itch)
- Catarrh (phlegm), post-nasal drip, stuffy, runny nose
- Apthous ulcers (canker sores)
- Repeated throat or ear infections
- Changes in blood pressure
- Heart rate increase
- Chronic cough
- Swollen and painful joints
- Aching muscles
- Stiffness or cramping
- Frequent urination
- Nervous system symptoms like brain fog, anger, insomnia, difficulty waking, memory loss, depression, irritability, lack of confidence, low mood
Always note too if your child is tired after eating something, or if they feel cold after eating, they are likely eating a stressor food.
So, after listing the symptoms, how do you figure out which foods are causing the trouble? How do you make a personalized diet that will allow your child to live symptom free until old age?
Well, a big clue is that a hidden intolerant food or allergy is one in which your child eats on an almost daily basis. That should narrow it down. You need to, therefore, list the things your child eats every day and cross- reference them by day to see any common culprits. The 4 most intolerant foods for kids are dairy (by far number 1), food colourings (number 2), corn (number 3), and wheat/gluten (number 4).
Another clue is that they are addicted to or have a strong aversion to their allergen. They crave it if there has been any time without (cereal, milk), or they dread eating/drinking it (mushrooms, tomatoes). I frequently hear the argument that if we crave something, it must be something our bodies are telling us we need. Not so in the case of food allergens. It is more like the addiction of a heroin addict. It is not that their bodies want the heroin, it is just that when it is removed, their body goes through withdrawal from the drug. The addition of more drug stops the negative feeling for the addict. It is this similar withdrawal that your child is avoiding by craving and then eating the stressor food. She is unhappily adapted to the stressor food.
Yet another way you can tell your child is intolerant to certain foods is if they wake up tired or cranky. Tired and cranky are withdrawal symptoms from being without their unhappily adapted food all night. This is a clear indicator that they are addicted to a food (or drink) allergen. What food or drink makes them less cranky in the morning? What foods do they crave in the morning? Do they ever seem “Hangry” (Hungry and Angry)? This is a classic food allergy symptom! What is it that they crave to eat? What “fixes” this Hanger? That, unfortunately, is likely one of the culprits. Sorry........
So, what is the big deal? Who cares if my child has cravings and eats stressor foods everyday if they do not have any symptoms? Well, many symptoms are undetected that do not allow your child to reach their full potential, like brain inflammation and lowered nutrient absorption. As well, many symptoms WILL arise when your child's threshold is lowered for whatever reason, be it a cold, a test at school, a fight with a friend, a bully encounter, or just as they age........Your child will unhappily adapt to an allergen, but only when she can cope with it. Once her coping mechanisms breakdown, so do the symptom barriers. This is when symptoms set in, or memory is affected, or the ability to think clearly is affected, or even depression rears it's ugly head……
So, you have written out the symptoms list and the list of all the common things your child eats. Then, for 10 days, you feed your child what cave men ate years ago. This means you must eliminate all the “new age foods”, plus the foods that you listed as a common food or a craving food. I always eliminate the nightshade fruits and vegetables as well because tomatoes seems to pop up on the list often. Nightshades include tomatoes, cayenne pepper, paprika, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and goji berries. These foods need to be completely eliminated for 10 days. Then, reintroduce each food one by one slowly and test the symptoms. Sometimes symptoms appear that were not present before. Write all symptoms down and eliminate the food again. If the symptoms disappear, then it was likely the food causing the issue.
If you do not have all symptoms gone in the elimination portion of the diet, then you may be missing a food to which your child is sensitive. Try to think about which foods they “can not live without”. That is where you should start. Often times chicken comes up on the list, or beef. Be sure to give those a try if having difficulty.
This is difficult to do with children. They will be unhappy when denied their favourite foods, but they seem to understand and accept it more than most adults do. We love our children and the temptation may be to give in and make them happy. Trust me, this will be life changing for them. You will be making their existence worlds better. And, after the withdrawal, they can easily, and, believe it or not, live happily without the food that was causing all the trouble. It certainly won't be all of the foods you eliminated. Only the ones to which they tested positive. Then, plan a diet protocol that includes foods only every forth day. For example, if you give them almonds today, give them cashews tomorrow, and pecans the next day. This way, they are less likely to become sensitive to them.
Do they need to eliminate the stressor food forever? Not necessarily. After a year or so, a reintroduction may indicate that in moderation, and following the rotation diet, the food may be tolerated.
Rotation diet works well to keep allergens at bay!
It is not easy, but your child is worth it!
Your child is counting on you for your strength, even if they don't fully see the benefits.
You need to be strong so that they can be........